Saturday, March 31, 2007

My Philosophy?

So says the QuizFarm.

You scored as Kantianism. Your life is guided by the ethical model of Kantianism: You seek to have consistent laws rule your actions, and your will is directed by reason.

"I do not, therefore, need any penetrating acuteness to see what I have to do in order that my volition be morally good. Inexperienced in the course of the world, incapable of being prepared for whatever might come to pass in it, I ask myself only: can you also will that your maxim become a universal law?"

--Immanuel Kant

More info at Arocoun's Wikipedia User Page...









Justice (Fairness)




Strong Egoism




Divine Command


What philosophy do you follow? (v1.03)
created with

This quiz is somewhat on target. I think I am more of a Kantian and less of an Existentialist than it indicates and I was a little surprised at my hedonism score, more because I feel "outed" than that I think it is wrong. I also have a pragmatism streak that the quiz didn't pick up on or even measure as I can tell.

Via Stranger Fruit

The Convocation on Job - Session I

It's been almost two weeks since the Convocation on Job and its high time I wrote more than the few words I posted shortly after the event.

Links to the other posts in this series.
Overview of Session II - James Sanders
Overview of Session III - John Wilcox
Overview of Session IV - George Pixley

Loren Fisher's recent work on the Book of Job provided the impetus for this gathering. So it was fitting that Loren spoke first. He reviewed his work, added a few new thoughts, set his work within a philosophical context. Ziony Zevit, Distinguished Professor in Bible Northwest Semitic Languages, at the University of Judaism responded to Loren's remarks. The following three sessions, which I will discuss in future posts, each began with a different scholar's reflections on Job and Loren's work with Loren responding. In a final session, Loren provided a summary of his thoughts after the daylong event and favored us with two original poems written for the occasion. I will post one of them near the end of this series. John Cobb presided over this first session.

Loren's presentation was a tour de force ranging from Whitehead's observations concerning "flashes of freedom," to the Babylonian Theodicy and other Akkadian tales to the extent of Egyptian influence on the whole of the Near East. The last point was illustrated with reference to The Story of Sinuhe, The Eloquent Peasant, The Story of Wen-Amon and, perhaps most important for the understanding of Job, The Man and His Ba.

To a large extent, Loren's opening comments assumed that those in attendance were familiar with his scholarly works of Job (The Rebel Job) and his novels. His novels are The Jerusalem Academy and The Minority Report, Silenced by Religion are also extremely relevant. For those who were not at the Convocation on Job, I will outline Loren's position as can be seen in the above works and integrate some of his opening remarks in this post.

It may seem strange to many academics that works of fiction play a role in communicating one's scholarly position. I hope you will come to see why Loren uses fiction in the way he does and to appreciate its use.

The highest level explanation of Loren's position takes the present Book of Job as two interacting stories that once had, at least for a short time, an independent existence. Of course, as he acknowledges, he is not the first to have this position. To arrive fully at the current Book, one must add certain supplemental material like the wisdom poem in Job 28 and the speeches of Elihu (Job 32-37) to the two Job hypotheses.

According to Loren, Old Job, Job I, is a very old story indeed, having its origin in the Bronze Age if not earlier. It shares this old age with the story of Dan'el, now known from Ugarit, who, along with Job and Noah in Ezekiel 14:14-20, as examples of particularity righteous people of old. Job I survives in the following parts of the Book of Job: Job 1:1-2:13 (the prose prologue), Job 27:1-23, Job 29:1-31-41, Job 38:1-42:17 with its prose epilogue. Loren actually divides the prologue a little more finely but it is not very important to the over all understanding of his interpretation. See Job 3-28, Who Hears the Cries of the Innocent, page 16. In Job I, Job is orthodox. He believes the just are rewarded and the evil are punished. And while, based on his own experience, he is somewhat confused about this, he believes God has some reason behind his actions.

Loren tells us that Rebel Job, Job II (Job 3:1-26:14) reacted against the orthodox position. This Job is "far from orthodox." While the Job of Job II is not an atheist in the modern sense, he does believe that the god of Job I and of his friends in Job II is dead. Whatever remains of god is neither just nor omnipotent. It is this Rebel Job that Loren and I admire. He represents what Whitehead referred to as one of those "flashes of freedom." As such, Job II joins many of the Egyptian works cited by Loren as also representing such flashes.

But alas, the Rebel's poem could not withstand the orthodox backlash for long. Job II becomes integrated into the old Job I story. By this action, Job II is "baptized" into the very orthodox tradition it sought to overcome. How did all this come about? No one knows. It is here that Loren turns to fiction and places the origin of Job II within a scribal school associated with David's court in Jerusalem. The strong negative reaction comes from the Priests who are also associated with David's court and from David himself. Remember this is fiction. While I think Loren believes that most of the book as we have it today originated by this process at the time of David, he knows that this cannot be adequately supported on the existing evidence so he turns to fiction. But what is to be learned from The Minority Report, Silenced by Religion is not primarily that the book of Job goes back to the time of David but that it resulted from a two fold reaction, first a reaction against the orthodox position of Job I and secondly a reaction against the unorthodox position of Job II. For Loren, one should read the Book of Job as two works that stand in opposition each to the other.

Ziony Zevit responded to Loren's opening statement. I do not have the benefit of a written copy of Zevit's remarks and my notes have gotten a little cold and were not so good to begin with, so forgive me if I don't get this exactly right. Zevit tried to show that the Rebel Job may not be quite the Rebel Loren thinks. First, according to the worldview in the Hebrew Bible, everyone, the righteous and the unrighteous alike, go to She'ol when they die. Second, there is not a problem if one ignores YHWH. The prohibition is against trafficking in other gods. Job II, in his view of how god treats both the righteous and the unrighteous, is in line with the general perception of what happens at the end of one's life. And Job II does not turn to other gods; he only turns away from YHWH (here called Eloah). For these reasons, Job II can be understood within the Israelite religious context. Zevit's position was, in many ways, the most supportive of Loren's. He took Loren's position very seriously and tried to provide an explanation of how Job II could have arisen and been maintained. In so doing, he made the rebel a little less rebellious than Loren might have liked.

I will be sharing more of Loren's position over the next few post on the Convocation. I will also give my take on the many issues raised in a final post. Don't think I will let any of these scholars get way completely free. But the next post will be on James A. Sanders' paper on Job and Loren's reaction to it.

Update: April 3, 2007
Added link to session II post

Update: April 8, 2007
Added link to session III post

Update: April 10, 2007
Added link to session IV post

Friday, March 30, 2007

Server Update

I took a day and a half off from working on my new server to get a little distance from the problems. This morning I was able to make my old abnormal archives available online. Most of them seem to work fine. There may be a few broken links and a few images that don't work and comments will definitely not work. If you've added one of my old posts to your favorites or linked to it from somewhere or other, check the link and let me know if there are problems by leaving a comment here.

I still am unable to run any Perl script that calls another Perl script and therefore, I am still unable to publish new material on my old site. Being able to publish there may take some time!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Oh Boy, A Free Book

I just learned that I won a free book from Eisenbrauns. I have no idea what book it is but I do love free books. I'll let you know what it is as soon as it comes.

The Problem with Wikipedia

A minor storm has blown up again over Wikipedia. Mark Goodacre defends it. Jim West condemns it. Rick Sumner strikes a strong middle position with perhaps a tilt toward Mark. Loren Rosson appears largely to agree with Mark. Mark has issued a challenge to Jim and Jim has accepts it. While I have considerable sympathy for Jim's position, I do think that with diligent monitoring and updating by real experts Wikipedia entries can and often do match the quality of print encyclopedias and the possible breadth of Wikipedia is much greater. And herein lies the problem. Wikipedia, at its best, is an encyclopedia.

I have always had grave concerns about encyclopedias. In my experience far too many people read an encyclopedia article and think they now know something about the subject they looked up. And if they consulted a good, modern, encyclopedia, on one level they do. But on another level, they only know a summary of the topic and often a high-level summary at that. Encyclopedias tend to encourage superficial knowledge in place of significant knowledge.

When our kids were growing up there was considerable pressure on us to buy an encyclopedia set. The pressure came for our parents, our kids friends' parents, occasionally from our kids and, most perplexing, from our kids teachers. We resisted. While we have accumulated a significant library over the years, we still do not own a general purpose encyclopedia set. We do own many books that contain the primary sources that our kids used in their term papers while other kids paraphrased encyclopedia articles. I always told our kids that if they wanted to know something they should go to the source and only then see what others had to say about it. I remember, years ago, an encyclopedia salesperson coming to our door. He was shocked speechless when I told him that encyclopedias might be OK for adults who wanted superficial knowledge of something that wasn't too important to them, but they were bad for kids. So how did our dogmatic resistance to encyclopedias work our in terms of our kid's educations. Will both of them are now tenured associate professors at research schools. One is in a top ten department. We may have harmed their psyches but it's hard to believe we harmed their education.

So what about the adult use of encyclopedias: I think there are two occasions where they can be useful. First, as I noted above, if one is looking for a brief overview of a subject and nothing more than that, they can be helpful on their own. This is only true if one also knows that one is only getting a brief overview even if the entry is several pages long. Second, if one is interested in a subject and has no idea where to start, an encyclopedia article, if well researched and referenced, can be a place to start. It should never be the place to end. In both cases, take everything you read in encyclopedias (and blogs and most other places) with a grain of salt. If you are really interested in a subject, go to the original sources. Struggle with them. See what a variety of scholars think. Then and only then, develop your own position. Perhaps more realistically, then and only then, express your own position.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The CBS Evening Medical News

For as long as I can remember Shirley and I have watched the local news on CBS followed the CBS Evening News. We really like the 6:00 PM local news team and we were fans of most of the national CBS anchors. We even came to enjoy Katie Couric after those first few not so good weeks. But we have noticed a slow but steady change in programming that culminated in the "news" mix witnessed the last two evening: 80% of the time on medical coverage and not really even medical news in once sense. Sure, this evenings CBS Evening News with Katie Couric covered the Tal Afar bombing, the Senate vote on the special appropriations bill (and the Presidents response) and latest on the captured British service personnel were mentioned. But fully eighty percent of the program was devoted to cancer with an additional short segment of how advertising affect what kids eat and there fore their health. There was nothing on the on going Attorney General story, nothing on the withdrawal of Sam Fox's name for the position of ambassador to Belgium, nothing on several other important stories.

I think it is time for Shirley and I to find a national news outlet that provides the news. There was far more news on the Daily Show than CBS provided these last two nights.

I'm Baaaack! Well, I'm Sort of Back

I miss blogging and the setup of my new server is going far more slowly than I had planned. So, I set up this Blogger site to stave off withdrawals. I will continue to work to get the server going but in the meantime, I will post here for a while. This is actually my second post here. My first post was a slight revision of the last post before my old server crashed. I may spiff up this site and then again, I may not. It all depends on how long I think I will be living here.

What follows is a bit of a rant. Don't read it if you are in a good mood or severally depressed or just don't care. The problem with bring up the new server as a web server revolves around a host of security issues every one of which is a pain in the rear! Software that ran on the old server with no problem will not run correctly on the new server. Sometimes as many as six levels of protection keep it from running. Each level needs to be configured properly to allow operation and at the same time maintain security. Many of these issues are not intuitive. In some cases, the software itself needs to be changed in subtle and not so subtle ways. All this is the direct result of criminal vandals who get their jollies from vandalizing other people property, in this case their websites, computer files and systems. Some of these criminals also want to use my server to do their dirty work. I hate it and I don't know for sure what to do about it. The truth is, some of the problems I am having would go away if one of my goals was not to duplicate my blog in such a way that the archives were exactly where people expected them to be. Even if I abandon this goal there would still be problems.

For the record, the new server is doing a great job on other services like email and several other things that Shirley and I do with it.

Not Exactly What I'd Call Unanimity

A week ago Monday, several scholars and about 35 to 40 abnormally interested and interesting people tried to sort out a couple of issues concerning the Book of Job. I start my series of reports with an short overview of the focus of the meeting: Loren Fisher's work on the Book.

Loren summarized his previously published views that the Book of Job is best understood as two works. He argued that Job 3:1-26:14 (with a few possible intrusions), which he calls Job II or Rebel Job, was written in response to a much older Job account, Job I (most of the rest of the Book). Job II is, according to Loren, a very strong statement against orthodox believes including, but not limited to, the belief that the universe is just. So offensive was this idea to the "powers that be" at that time that ancient scribes integrated this nearly atheistic Job's work into the older story to make it acceptable to both king and priest. I'll provide more details as to when and how in the next post in this series. Loren further argued that Rebel Job provides the proper standard for judging the rest of Job, the rest of the Hebrew Bible, indeed, all religious works and beliefs in general. I find this idea most agreeable. Sure orthodoxy won, but it need not continue winning. There are other consequences of this understanding of Rebel Job that I'll also touch on in the next post.

To put is mildly, not everyone agreed! A few seemed to me to miss the point but most of those who understood Loren correctly felt that he was wrong, exegetically, theologically or both. And, with one possible exception, the other speakers who made formal presentations, (Ziony Zevit [the possible exception], Jack Sanders, Jack Wilcox and George Pixley) even as they recognized the composite nature of the book, appeared to side with the orthodox Job I. Now, that is a bit of a characterization that I will try to fix in future posts. Everyone had high praise for Loren's beautiful and well documented translations of Job and for his use of material from the ancient Near East.

Over the next few days, I will offer more details of Loren's opening and closing presentations and some of his other remarks and the presentations of Loren's friends. In a concluding post, likely sometime next week, I will give my own minority report as Loren might call it, in which I will summarize my own view on the these matters. While I am largely in agreement with my teacher, Loren, I do have a quibble here and there. I will also make a couple of observations on why I think any of these matters. And I do think it matters. I may post a few pictures from the conference along the way.